You’re stuck behind the lawn mower this glorious July week, or worse yet, behind a desk piled high with past-due deadlines while everyone you know on social media is vacationing. Would it help if I told you that my mother referred to mowing as “vacuuming the lawn”? No? Not even a chuckle? Well, I do care. So, in this week’s Audio Adventures, some wild, funny, scary, amazing trips guaranteed to set your audacious spirit free even if your body is inching along in summer suburban traffic.
Let’s begin by signing up with the exuberant raconteur and animal preservationist, Gerald Durrell, on expeditions to Madagascar and Patagonia. Pack carefully, for near disaster looms around every tree and over every cliff. Few writers were as hysterically funny or as sympathetic as Durrell, who died in 1995, so it’s wonderful to enjoy him again in these terrific new productions of THE AYE-AYE AND I and THE WHISPERING LAND. In each case, Rupert Degas offers a glorious (and Earphones Award-winning) performance that voices all manner of inhabitants and channels Durrell’s enthusiasm for absolutely everything, including being stuck on a small rock in the middle of a raging river.
When I was thirteen and my brother six, my parents bought a small sailboat that we tacked back and forth across the Stockbridge Bowl in western Massachusetts for several summers. Despite the boat’s diminutive size, one duck-beneath-the-boom as the sail shifted was all we needed to get from one shore to the other. While the placid water suited my mother and me, I know that my father and brother dreamed of greater adventure. Peter Clutterbuck’s THE SEA TAKES NO PRISONERS was more what they had in mind. In it, the older Clutterbuck looks back upon his teenage self, who, encouraged by his parents to foster independence, took a 16-foot open dingy on a seafaring adventure. Malk Williams offers a helpfully calm narration of the amazing journey, in which Clutterbuck survives mountainous waves,and many rudder breakages, dismastings, and capsizings. Whew. Think of what we were missing on our puddle-pond.
I am as nervous about speed and heights as I am of crashing waves, but I love to hear about others’ death-defying exploits. So for another far-out trip, I recommend astronaut Scott Parazynski’s THE SKY BELOW, which he reads very well. Whether summiting Everest, testing jet-packs (whoa, that’s fast), or “walking” in the ginormous inky space above us seven times, he’s doing stuff that even your most adventurous vacationing friends probably aren’t. But you are, because you’re listening to him, and as far as I’m concerned, that’s as good as.
Occasionally after a Maine blizzard, I’ll trudge through the drifts pretending that I am pulling a sled across frozen tundra. I usually manage a few city blocks before admitting that I am not a natural Arctic explorer. But I almost want to be. And to keep us cool behind the lawnmower this summer, I recommend Caroline Van Hemert’s memoir THE SUN IS A COMPASS, about the 4,000 miles she and her husband rowed, canoed, rafted, and skied across Alaska. Sensitively performed by Xe Sands, who sounds as if she went along for the trip, it’s an inspiring tale of bravery, endurance, and love. There’s also the time when they had to avoid a stalking bear. Think about that as the rhododendrons shift while you are relaxing in a hammock.
Photo by Francis Seura